By Annie Ellison
Published: Nov. 23, 2013
The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is planning to retrofit asbestos pipes in a Whistler neighbourhoods in 2015.
“At the end of the day I am still not thrilled to be drinking out of asbestos pipes.” White Gold resident Steve Carrell
“It is likely that those pipes would not have been replaced in 2015 if I had not raised the issue,” said White Gold resident Scott Carrell in an email statement from Australia.
“That speaks to the ease and power of neighbourhood planning.”
In 2012, Carrell sent a letter to the mayor and council of RMOW after he learned from a local plumber that the pipes he was drinking out of were made of concrete and asbestos. Not just his pipes, but the main supply pipes for the area.
“I wrote the letter to raise awareness that our water lines in White Gold are asbestos and to question when they will be replaced,” he said.
He took issue with the fact that Whistler actively promotes its water as some of the best drinking water in the world — most locals would agree that it is — and yet those locals were drinking out of pipes made from a substance that’s banned in most countries.
Asbestos-cement pipes haven’t been used in construction since the 1970s. That is, when Whistler was starting to grow.
Studies show asbestos is most harmful when inhaled and that there are no direct health risks associated with ingesting asbestos from water supplies.
“Given that studies from numerous organizations, including the World Health Organization and Health Canada, show that water-borne asbestos is not hazardous to health, the situation was reviewed and it was decided not to take further action at this time,” said RMOW senior communication officer Claire Piech.
Vancouver Coastal Health’s Anna Marie D’Angelo says the same thing.
Piech says Whistler council received Carrell’s letter on November 6 of last year and they’ve incorporated it into what she called their long term water replacement plan.
“Due to the age of these asbestos-cement pipes, they are near the top of the list for replacement, likely starting in 2015,” she said.
“At the end of the day I am still not thrilled to be drinking out of asbestos pipes,” Carrell said.
He is taking the asbestos issue as a springboard for more neighbourhood planning.
Older areas north of the village began expanding as the resort grew throughout the 1970s and 1980s, while other areas like the recent Rainbow development on Crazy Canuck Drive are practically new.
“I would like to see more focus on infrastructure planning at a neighbourhood level…each neighbourhood has its unique concerns,” said Carrell.
Carrell says it’s residents and business owners in those areas who are more aware of the need for planning, rather that blanket-policy from the RMOW.